Solar Orbiter is on the way to the Sun, and at this stage all is well.
A day after the spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on top of an Atlas V 411, mission controllers at the European Space Operations Centre received a signal indicating its solar panels had successfully deployed.
In the following two days it is scheduled to deploy its instrument boom and several antennas that will communicate with Earth and gather scientific data.
An ESA-led mission with NASA participation, the Solar Orbiter will make 22 close approaches to the Sun and explore uncharted areas, including its polar regions.
It will also investigate how intense radiation and energetic particles being blasted out from the Sun and carried by the solar wind through the Solar System impact our home planet, to better understand and predict periods of stormy space weather.
“Solar Orbiter is going to do amazing things. Combined with the other recently launched NASA missions to study the Sun, we are gaining unprecedented new knowledge about our star,” says NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen.